Frequently Asked Questions
What is the benefit of using a solar hot water system?
Solar hot water systems can be found throughout New Zealand; in heating water for both domestic and commercial use. A solar hot water system makes sound economic sense as the system uses the sun's heat (a free resource) to generate hot water. At the same time, demand is reduced on fossil fuels which means we are reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. A solar hot water system is a one-time investment that not only pays for itself in the long run, but will also save your household or business significant money on bills over time.
Is solar water heating a viable alternative to gas or electricity?
Yes, solar water heating is a better economic choice than gas or electricity. If you already have an electric hot water system, then retrofitting a solar hot water system is a great idea. If you have an efficient hot water system, such as gas heating or a wetback, a solar hot water system may not make a big enough difference to warrant a new installation.
How long will it be until my savings outweigh my costs?
A solar hot water system will vary in cost, depending on what size system is needed to meet your hot water demands. On average, it will take between five to eight years in energy savings to reach a full return on investment. After that time, you will be generating hot water completely free. A system can be expected to last for at least 20 years.
How much money can I save?
The average New Zealand household’s hot water requirements comprise about one third of the home’s electricity bill. A solar hot water system can eliminate up to 75 percent of your electricity or gas requirements for hot water heating. It will eliminate around a quarter of your total power bill.
What local or national government incentives are available?
The National Governments subsidies for solar water heating came to an end in during June 2012. There are no more nationwide subsidies for solar hot water.
What is the difference between flat plate and evacuated tube solar hot water collectors?
Generally, flat plate systems are cheaper, but there are many good reasons to pay a little bit more for evacuated tube solar hot water collectors. See below:
- They have a greater surface area; they can capture more of the sun’s energy at a given time. Therefore, they also require a smaller roof area to get the same amount of energy as a flat plate collector.
- They are more efficient at transferring heat to your hot water supply.
- The tubes are durable—however, if one breaks, you can replace a single tube rather than the whole system.
- Because of the circulating antifreeze fluid, the system they can be used in subzero temperatures.
- The system still works well in the shade and in overcast conditions.
What happens on a cloudy day?
Generally, the system will still be able to generate hot water—it just won’t produce as much. The controller will detect if the system is able to heat the water or fluid to a minimum level. If not, the system will automatically switch over to your booster heater, which normally runs on either electricity or gas.
Using a tankless gas water heater is the most efficient backup for your solar hot water system. This is due to the gas system being turned on when hot water is being used. With an electric backup system, the hot water tank is heated as soon as the water temperature drops below a certain level, unless the controller is set not to turn the booster heater on at that time.
Will I ever run out of hot water?
No. If the amount of hot water you choose to use is a larger volume than expected, then the system will switch to booster heating.
Can I use a solar collector with my existing hot water tank?
Normally, yes. If it is an older hot water tank or if it is too small, then a replacement might be required.
What angle should the collectors be mounted at?
The collectors should be installed at an angle of at least 20° for the collectors to get optimal levels of sunlight. Solar collectors can be tilted to ensure ample amounts of sunlight are being utilised.
Who installs solar hot water systems?
Registered plumbers from the New Zealand Apricus installer network.
What happens if I go away for an extended period of time?
The system will continue automatically and autonomously manage itself while you are away. The power supply to the pump should be kept on, or else damage may be caused to the solar collectors.
How long does it take to install a system?
It depends on what type of system you are installing, but installation generally takes between two and four hours.
What maintenance is involved?
A solar hot water system is almost maintenance free. Rainfall will keep the collector clean; a quick wipe down is all that is needed should you notice dust or dirt build up.
Can solar hot water systems be used for commercial purposes?
Solar collectors can be connected in a series that can provide hot water for most commercial settings.
Will the water be hot enough?
Yes. An Apricus solar hot water system can produce water temperatures as high as 75°C (the average temp for a hot shower at home is 40°C). If the water is heated too high, the system will lower the temperature of the water to a safe level, which is the level set by the government’s health and safety regulations.
Do I have to change my showering and cleaning routines?
Depending on when you shower, you may have to change your routine a bit. It is best to attempt using hot water for showers late in the morning and early in the afternoon, when the solar system is operating at its peak. A well-insulated hot water cylinder will keep some of the hot water overnight, but you can expect a small percentage loss.
If you use hot water for cleaning, then it is best to spread the load over a week rather than all in one day.
What happens if one of the evacuated tubes breaks?
A tube can be replaced by a handyman or a local plumber, with ease. The system will continue to operate with broken tubes so long as the other tubes are intact.
What is the warranty on most solar hot water systems?
Apricus solar hot water systems come with a 10-year warranty with local support from the installers and international back up from Apricus Global.
Can solar hot water systems be used in cold climates?
Apricus evacuated tube systems will continue to function in temperatures as low as -30°C. Performance will be sacrificed in extreme temperatures.